Monday, November 3, 2008

Candidates don't want the "No Bridge Option"

All: Sorry for the delay but I have been out of town visiting extended family. Here's an article by the Daily Advance's Jennifer Preyss on where some candidates for commissioner stand on the bridge options.

Staff Writer

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Candidates for the Currituck Board of Commissioners say they’d support a state highway improvementoption that includes building a Mid-Currituck bridge and the least amount of road widening.

Five candidates shared their views on the proposed N.C. Turnpike Authority project during several recent community forums, and all agreed that the agency’s no-bridge option likely won’t be an option.

“My heart tells me one thing and my head tells me another,” said Republican District 1 candidate Vance Aydlett. “If the no-bridge option is really not realistic, then I would support (the third option).”

The third, also referred to as option MCB4, would cost $480 million and include the least amount of road widening on Highways U.S. 158 and N.C. 12.

The first “no-bridge” option, also called ER2, is the least costly at $315 million, but features extensive widening of both highways.

The second option (called MCB2) is the most expensive at $635 million. It also includes building a bridge across the Currituck Sound, from south of Coinjock on the mainland to south of Corolla on the Outer Banks. It also includes more road widening than the third option, including all of N.C. 12 from Corolla to the Wright Memorial Bridge.

Joining Aydlett in supporting the third option were Democrat at-large candidate Stanley Griggs, Democrat District 4 candidate Johnny Messina, Republican District 2 candidate John Rorer and Republican District 4 incumbent Owen Etheridge.

The Turnpike Authority will soon release an environmental impact study of the three alternatives for the Mid-Currituck toll-bridge project.

Officials anticipate awarding the project contract in early 2010 and project opening to traffic sometime in 2013.

The project is expected to improve traffic flow between U.S. 158 and N.C. 12, while reducing travel time between Currituck’s Outer Banks and the mainland. Also, in the event of a hurricane, the bridge will help reduce evacuation time.

While the no-bridge option was not originally part of the design, the turnpike authority was encouraged to include that alternative after recommendations from environmental agencies and reviewing public comments from public forums.

Many of the candidates however, agree the no-bridge option simply isn’t viable.

Adylett, among others, said they supportminimal road widening that the third option offers, although he noted concern for residents who live near the proposed bridge construction site.

“I’m concerned what will happen to them, it’s really a tough decision.”

Griggs agreed.

“I think third is the best option, but what needs to be decided now, is if that will adequately handle the traffic,” Griggs said.

But even while determining how traffic will increase in with the addition of the bridge, Griggs said the bridge will not attract an overwhelming flow of cars.

“(Traffic increase) is not going to be two-fold, it will be a modest increase at most.”

Messina, who also supports the third option, said he’d like to see the least amount of road widening down N.C. 12.

“I definitely think (the third option) will help with traffic, but we want to be careful about the road widening there,” Messina said.

Rorer said he favors the third option because it is the “only reasonable alternative.”

“(Third) is the least expensive and disruptive of the toll bridge options,” Rorer said.

Etheridge, who is up for re-election, said he will never support the no-bridge option because of the potential harm the extensive road widening.

“I will never agree to have road widening from one end of the county to the other,” Etheridge said. “It would devastate the county.”

Etheridge also favors the third option because it has the least amount of road widening on N.C. 12.

“With (the third), we could always go back and make adjustments later,” he said. “(It) would have the least amount of harm.”

In addition to the bridge proposals themselves, the turnpike authority has outlined two prospective termini locations within the second and third options.

Known as C1 and C2, the exit points are located within two miles of each other.

Bridge terminus C1, would end in the Corolla Bay subdivision, while C2 would end two miles south near Albacore Street.

Each candidate interviewed agreed C1 was the better terminus choice because Corolla Bay has substantially less congestion that the C2 location, near Albacore Street.

“There’s less development in Corolla Bay, and it gives the public more input on development near the bridge,” Messina said.